AI to replace tasks, not humans, says expert

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

The head of Singapore’s government-backed artificial intelligence (AI) agency has stressed that AI will not to take jobs away and replace many workers around the world from what is supposed to be their stable source of livelihood.

Photo shows AI Singapore director Laurence Liew (left) and Temasek Polytechnic principal and CEO Peter Lam (extreme right) at the media panel discussion on “Pushing the AI Agenda.” In the middle is IBM Singapore managing director Abraham Thomas who served as moderator

Laurence Liew, director of AI Singapore, was one of the panelists at the media panel discussion on the topic ”Pushing the AI Agenda,” which opened the 2018 edition of IBM’s Think Asean conference being held at the Resorts World Sentosa Convention Center in Singapore.

“It’s not going replace human beings,” said Liew during the session. Instead, he said AI will replace some of the tasks involved in the job performed by human beings.

He explained that some jobs involve multiple tasks while others involve only a single task.

“Your job role will change because as AI replaces some of these tasks, you will be moving up to take on higher value tasks as long as you are willing to learn and upgrade yourself,” he said.

It is those jobs involving only one task which will be taken over by AI technologies, he added, and advised SMEs to assess their employees and think of ways to move them up the value chain as they begin deploying AI technologies.

Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-Charge of Smart Nation initiative

“Time and time again, over the course of history, with new technology being introduced and we see there’s a lot of disruptions taking place, inevitably there will be new jobs that will be created,” added Peter Lam, principal and CEO of Temasek Polytechnic who was also a panelist.

The media discussion also touched on the importance of educating oneself and organizational personnel in order to gain a wider skillset and be able to adapt to the requirements of the digital workplace.

“To get the skills you need doesn’t need to cost you a lot of money,” Liew stated. “Education is now free.”

Janet Ang, VP for industry solutions and business development of IBM Asia Pacific (right) during the panel discussion on “AI Nation at Work” during the opening day of IBM’s Think Asean

At the event’s plenary session, Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan agreed with Liew and expressed his belief that in order to upgrade skillsets, everyone needs to go back to school to learn new technologies and capabilities.

“AI is not just for experts,” stressed Janet Ang, VP for industry solutions and business development at IBM Asia Pacific, during the panel discussion on the topic “AI Nation at Work.”

“This means everyone should have access to skills development.”

Think Asean runs from May 8-9, 2018 and gathers IBM executives, employees, clients, partners, and stakeholders from around the region. Aside from panel and roundtable discussions on different issues surrounding AI, Think Asean also features the Think Park where the different applications of AI are on exhibit.

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